PRATAPGAD FORT

(clicking on the thumbnail images enlarges the image)

Pratapgad fort is considered to be the highest point of the range with a full view of the surrounding places. Many stalls of beautiful handicraft etc have been put up in the fort.

(Mahableshwar  17 55'N, 73 35'E RS Wathar, 52m) 3543 feet above sea level, twenty miles north-west of Medha and by road eight miles west of Mahabaleshwar, is built on a range which forms a spur of the Mahabaleshwar hills and separates the villages of Par and Kinesvar commanding the road between them. The fort from a distance looks like a round-topped hill, the walls of the lower fort forming a sort of bend or crown round the brow. It can be visited with great ease from Malcolm Point. Now cars go right up to the base of the fort, near the main gate. An hour's drive down by the Fitz Gerald pass road brings the visitor to the bungalow at Vada or Ambenali a small hamlet within the limits of Kumbhrosi village. Ponies and chairs with bearers are available. It takes a few minutes of easy climbing leads to the fort gateway, most of the pathway lying through small, but in places thick forest. On passing the gateways, the outwork of Abdulla's tower lies to the right while the path to the upperfort is on the left. The temple of Bhavani is on the eastern side of the lower fort. It consists of a hall which was rebuilt recently and a shrine, the hall with wooden pillars about 50' long and 30' broad and 12' high. The shrine is of stone. It contains a black stone image of Bhavani with some fine clothes belonging to it. The roof of the temple is flat inside. Outside is a leaden covering put up by the Satara Raja Pratapsinh 1818-1839 and over the shrine is a small spire or shikhar. The temple is in good repair but unattractive and only worth a visit on account of its historical associations.

The western and northern sides of the fort are gigantic cliffs with an almost vertical drop in many places of seven or eight hundred feet. The towers and bastions on the south and east are often thirty or forty feet high, while there is in most places naked black rock not much lower. In an inspection report 1842 Pratapgad is described as occupying the highest point of the range with a full and commanding view of the surrounding country. The west and north sides were very steep and inaccessible. Both covered with huge masses and a vast precipice of trap rock. On the east and south the hills were more sloping and covered with a dense wood in contrast with the rocky west and north, and gradually descended to the valleys separating Mahabaleshwar and the Kineshvar range on the east and the Konkan Valley on the west. It consisted of two forts, an upper fort built on the crest of the hill and a lower fort immediately below  on the south and east, both overlooking the surrounding country and guarding the passage to the hill on almost all sides. One approach, however, was not so strongly guarded as others, which, passing over an easy ground fit for a motar battery, led to a tower locally known as Abdulla's tower. From the tower the ascent ran up a steep and rugged pathway along the south of the outwork and completely defended by it. The pathway led to te entrance between two strong towers through two narrow and well built gates. From the lower to the upper fort were two entrances one of them on the north-east corner. It was a mere opening without a gateway between two towers very weak but for a precipice outside.

The fort walls varied in height according to the nature of the ground. The parapet wall was very slight and the rampart only thre feet broad. The upper fort, built upon the crest of the hill, was 200 yards long by 200 broad and contained several permanent buildings for residence and a temple of Mahadev. Both the upper fort and the temple of Mahadev are in good condition even now. The lower fort, 350 yards long by  120 broad was on the eastern and southern side of the hill. The southern side was rocky and precipitous, while the eastern side had a strong outwork ending in the tower above mentioned which commanded the approach to the place. The outwork was said to have been added by Shivaji after the entanglement with the Bijapur general Abdulla, properly Afzal, who died at the hands of Shivaji and whose head is buried beneath the tower which bears his name. At the end of the outwork, where it joins the lower fort, appears to have been a gateway now destroyed. The entrance to the fort lay on the south of the outwork, but the approach to it was completely commanded by the walls of the outwork which overlooked the path the whole way up to the entrance. The entrance was well protected and very strong, the space between the towers on each side not exceeding four feet, the pathway very steep and rugged, and a double gate or door way forming the actual entrance. The only buildings in the lower fort were a few ruined huts, some houses of Brahmans and a well furnished temple of Bhavani. In 1882 Pratapgad is noted as a strong fort with ample watter-supply and provisions. It was garrisoned by ten of the Satara police.

An old tank which was in disuse for a long time is now repaired and brought into use. However, water supply is scanty and not safe for drinking.

Pratapgad was built in 1656 by the famous Brahmans minister Moro Trimbak Pingle at the command of Shivaji, who pitched upon this high rock near the source of the Krshna, thereby securing access to his possessions on the banks of the Nira and the Koyna and strengthening the defences of the Par Pass. In 1659, the foot of the hill was the scene of Shivaji's famous interview with the Bijapur general Afzalkhan and of Afzalkhan's death. In the rains of 1661 Chhatrapati Shivaji, unable to visit the famous temple of Bhavani at Tuljapur, dedicated with great solemnity a temple to Bhavani on Pratapgad fort. In 1778 Sakharam Bapu, a famous Poona minister, was confined by his rival Nana Phadnis in Pratapgad and from here secretly removed from fort to fort until he perished miserably in Raigad. In 1796 Nana Phadnis, flying from the intrigues of Daulatrav Shinde and his minister Baloba to Wai and the Konkan, threw a strong garrison into Pratapgad and went to Mahad. In the Maratha war of 1818 Pratapgad surrendered by private negotiation, though it was an important stronghold, had large garrison, and could much annoy the country round Wai.

Pratapgad 3543 feet above sea level, is famous in Maratha history. Early in his career it was the seat of Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire, and here in 1659 he met Afzal Khan, the commander of the Bijapur army. The fort was designed by Shivaji in 1656 and built by Moro Trimbak Pingle. For many years it was a great Maratha strong hold being in ruins under the British rule but is being maintained for tourism. Inside is the temple of Bhavani, Shivaji's family goddess. Chhatrapati Shivaji was a devotee of  Bhavani Devi. His sword was dedicated to this deity and at the time of battle Shivaji flourished his sword with the battle-cry 'Jai Bhavani'. The great attraction of the Fort is now the elegant bronze statute of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on horse back which was erected in 1957 and was unveiled by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India. The Tomb, a short distance outside of the fort, marks the spot where Afzal Khan's head was buried. Pratapgad has been made much easier of access by a good road which runs nearly the whole  way, and a travellers bungalow at Vada or Ambenali at the bottom of the pass where refreshments can be had and arrangements made for carrying those who find it difficult to climb the hill.

A road was constructed by the then P.W.D. from the village Kumbhrosi up to the main door of the Fort in 1957. An equestrian bronze statute of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was erected in the year 1957. The statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was erected in the year by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minsiter of India on the 30th Novemeber 1957. The statute is placed on a square edifice which is 20 feet high. The management of the statue rests with the Pratapgad Shivsmarak Samiti.

A darga of Afzalkhan is constructed a little away from the fort to the sout-east of the Afzalkhan Buruj where an urus is held annually in the month of January or February. The management of the funds for the urus is in the hands of Afzalkhan Tomb Committee.

A guest house and a national park have been recently 1960 built near the statue. The foot steps leading to the fort have been repaired recently.

In the year 1656 Shivaji attacked on   “JAVLI”   a fortified palace of Chandrarao More. On his return journey Shivaji was attracted towards a hill surrounded by deep valleys known as Dhorpya Pahad ( Pahad means hill). Shivaji immediately decided to built Pratapgad on this hill.

Fort Raigad was in the west built on the spur of the hill of Torna fort and Pratapgad became the supreme checkpost of Cental Konkan.


The height of which can be achieved only by  stormy winds.Minister Moropant Pingle received the royal command from Shivaji.  “Hiroji Indulkar”, Shivaji’s Chief Engineer gave shape to this great idea of Shivaji in the form of Pratapgad.

 


The only main entrance to the fort between two huge walls which is not visible from a distance was made for the purpose of security and to put the enemies into confusion.  Till date this main door of the fort opens with sunrise and closes at sunset.

Inside the fort

If incase the enemy managed to get inside he fort, then a strong peripheral fort is formed guarding  the inside also.  There  is only one gate to enter this inside fort.  To  put the enemy into confusion Shivaji had many strategies, securities etc  and the caution taken by him can be seen here.


This is the second gate which served as a check post on the entrance of the fort, was also used as an entrance for Kings.  Presently  this royal gate remains closed.


There  are 4 lakes in the fort.  The rocks and stones excavated from these lakes have been used for building the fort and its architecture. The one in the picture below is about 25 feet deep and provided water to all people within the fort.


Shree Jagdamba Devi

“Ashtabiya Mahishasur Mardini Shree Bhavani Devi”  i.e.  the family  goddess of Raja Chatrapati Shivaji.  Due to the busy life and ruling on the Maratha Kingdom Shivaji could not visit “Tuljapur Bhavani “  situated at Tuljapur. Hence, he sculputured the idol of Mata Bhavani by using the Shaligram Stones imported from the Gand River of Nepal.  This idol was inaugurated in 1661 with enchanting of Mantras and Yadnya Yagas.


This is the crystal Shivalingam (sculputured in crystal stone). Raja Shivaji kept this Shivalingam in a silver box which he always carried with him even during the war period.


“Nagare”  

The sound of these Nagare’s  would quiver the sky. After the killing of Afzalkhan the sound of these Nagare’s echoed in the entire fort. 


The only road going towards the fort.  Here stood Afzal Burz  as a guard to spot any enemies entering the fort.

On the borders of the fort at many points we can see these type of windows.  Historians called these type of windows as “Janga” .  This Janga  served  the purpose of spotting any enemies who managed to come near the entrance of the main door to  the fort and it was a good place to aim a canon  at the enemy or shoot them through these janga.  This idea of having small windows at various points in the fort gives us a proof of Shivaji’s cleverness. 


Darbar (court)

Here would gather Shivaji’s small darbar.  Neighbouring chiefs would come to visit Shivaji and the meeting would take place in this darbar.  It is in this court only that Shivaji gave punishment  to the traitor “Khandoji Khopde”  by giving the command to cut off his left hand and right leg.  Criminals  would be treated in a similar fashion during Shivaji’s reign.

Steep Cliffs

Serious crimes had only one punishment- Death.  The criminal would be tied up with ropes , put in a sack and would be thrown down the cliff.


Shivaji’s  armour, sword and the dagger which saved his life.





Alongwith Shivaji’s daring adventures are related the sacred memories of Shri Shambhu Maharaj.  While building Pratapgad , Shivaji found a Swayambhu (self made) Shivaling.  Shivaji’s pious nature led to the quick establishment of a temple.  After  doing a Mahapuja of Shivashambhu  only  did Shivaji  went to meet  Afzalkhan.


On 30th November 1957, India’s Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehry inaugurated the statue of Shivaji  mounted on his horse.  During the movement for “Samyukta Maharashtra”  the Prime Minister’s visit  to Pratapgad  has a special reference.

Pratapgad is the property of the descendant of Shivaji , Shrimant Chatrapati Udyan Maharaj Raje Bhosale.  It is only due to his permission that today the Zilla Parishad and the forest department can take care of this historical monument.


Tomb of Afzalkhan

Fort Pratapgad  is also famous for the meeting of Shivaji and Afzalkhan where Shivaji had to kill Afzalkhan in self-defence.

Afzalkhan tried to kill Shivaji , while pretending to embrace him in the Maratha fashion he pulled out his dagger and stabbed Shivaji.  But Shivaji’s  armour saved him. Shivaji immediately freed himself from Afzalkhan’s grip and killed Afzalkhan with his tiger-claws.  The memorial tombs of Afzalkhan and his bodyguard “Sayyed Banda” is nearby to the foothills of Pratapgad fort.

Tiger claws which Shivaji used  to kill the mighty Afzalkhan.


Makarangarh Fort

Makarangarh fort is also known as Saddle-Back  since it looks like the back of a saddle.  It  is situated at a height of 1232 metres.  One can reach this fort by foot from the Ghonaspur village.  Mallikarjun temple is situated in this fort.  The two peaks are Makarangarh and Madhugarh.  The Madhugarh peak is very dangerous to climb on.  The main attraction of Makarangarh is that one can view the Konkan Valley on one side and Mahableshwar on the other side.

Ramvardayeeni Temple

This temple is situated in the village named Paar which lies on the way to Pratapgadh at a distance of about 18 km from Mahableshwar.  In the olden days this place was the checkpost for paying the excise duty for the merchants.